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All-Ireland League Division 1B: Round 4 Review

All-Ireland League Division 1B: Round 4 Review

It an Ulster 1-2-3 at the top of All-Ireland League Division 1B after bonus point home wins for Ballynahinch, Malone and new leaders Banbridge. St. Mary’s College, who are back in the top half of the table, returned to winning ways with a three-try second half salvo against City of Armagh.


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Scorers: Ballynahinch: Tries: James Simpson, Conor Kelly, Richard Reaney 3, Rhys O’Donnell 2, Aaron Cairns; Con: Hilton Gibbons
Buccaneers: Tries: Colm Reilly, Darragh Corbett 2, Kieran Joyce; Cons: Luke Carty 4; Pen: Luke Carty

HT: Ballynahinch 17 Buccaneers 10

Richard Reaney scored a hat-trick of tries from the right wing and Rhys O’Donnell weighed in with a brace as Ballynahinch saw off the challenge of Buccaneers on a 42-31 scoreline at Ballymacarn Park.

The teams served up a feast of scores, Ballynahinch taking their tally to eight tries thanks to a dominant third quarter performance. A series of injuries around the half hour mark left Buccs down three of their starting forwards – Conor Kenny, Simon Meagher and Evan Galvin – but they rallied in determined fashion to claim a late try-scoring bonus point.

Seven points separated the sides at the end of a first half which fluctuated throughout. ‘Hinch welcomed back lock John Donnan from injury, while Peter Nelson’s involvement with Ulster saw Conor Kelly continue at full-back in an unchanged back-line. Buccs made four changes from their bonus point win over Old Wesley, bringing in Michael Hanley, Callum Boland, Kieran Joyce and Kenny.

Luke Carty’s sixth-minute penalty gave the Pirates an early lead, after his opposite number Hilton Gibbons had missed at the other end. Some smart interplay sent ‘Hinch second row James Simpson over for a ninth-minute converted try, but they were soon down to 14 men due to flanker Ollie Loughead’s yellow card for collapsing a maul.

Buccs kept the pressure on and it yielded a seven-pointer for scrum half Colm Reilly who sniped over from the base of a scrum. However, Brian McLaughlin’s charges strung together two converted tries to lead 17-10 at the turnaround. Rory Butler recovered an O’Donnell kick and a few phases later, Reaney touched down wide on the right.

Full-back Kelly scored in the opposite corner on the stroke of half-time, following an impressive Callum McLaughlin break and that spell of unfortunate injuries for the Athlone men. The scores kept coming for the Ulstermen on the resumption, the visitors’ decision-making letting them down before a five-metre scrum set up scrum half O’Donnell for the bonus point try.

Taking a brilliant line close to a ruck near halfway, captain Aaron Cairns scythed through midfield to run in a classy score which made it 27-10, and ‘Hinch continued to prosper from turnovers and their counter-attacking ability. Reaney won the race to his own kick ahead to ground the ball for try number six and it was the winger’s break which teed up O’Donnell for his second of the afternoon.

Reaney duly completed his hat-trick when stepping inside a defender following some terrific offloading. A full 32 points behind, Buccs redoubled their efforts and produced a strong three-try finish. Winger Darragh Corbett crossed in the 72nd minute via scrum possession and powered over again four minutes later, before Joyce marked his debut with a strong run off a lineout and a well-taken bonus point try.

BALLYNAHINCH: Conor Kelly; Richard Reaney, Callum McLaughlin, Rory Butler, Aaron Cairns (capt); Hilton Gibons, Rhys O’Donnell; Campbell Classon, Zack McCall, Conor Piper, James Simpson, John Donnan, Keith Dickson, Ollie Loughead, Conall Boomer.

Replacements: Jonny Blair, Tom O’Toole, Robin Harte, Tom Martin, Ryan Wilson.

BUCCANEERS: Michael Hanley; Rory O’Connor, Callum Boland, Kieran Joyce, Darragh Corbett; Luke Carty, Colm Reilly; Martin Staunton, John Sutton (capt), Conor Kenny, Ruairi Byrne, Peter Claffey, Owen Treacy, Evan Galvin, Simon Meagher.

Replacements: Niall Farrelly, Darren Buckley, Rory Moloney, Frankie Hopkins, Liam Winnett.

Scorers: Banbridge: Tries: Stevie Irvine, Conor Field, Niall Armstrong, Aaron Kennedy; Cons: Adam Doherty 3; Pens: Adam Doherty 4
Ballymena: Try: Connor Smyth; Pen: Tim Small

HT: Banbridge 16 Ballymena 3

Banbridge head coach Simon McKinstry admitted ‘that was the best we’ve played so far this season’ after their 38-8 bonus point success at home to Old Belvedere moved them to the top of the Division 1B table.

Taking advantage of Naas’ week off, Banbridge cantered into a 16-3 lead by half-time with Ballymena’s indiscipline being ruthlessly punished. An early infringement saw 18-point star Adam Doherty kick for the corner and flanker Stevie Irvine finished off a well-taken try following a powerful surge for the line from the Bann pack.

Full-back Doherty converted and tagged on three penalties, and Ballymena, who had a lone penalty goal from Tim Small, had to scramble to avoid conceding a second try to Irvine. He was held up following good support play from James Hume and Mike Bentley, a replacement for injured flanker Caleb Montgomery.

Repeated infringements led to the Braidmen losing back rowers Connor Smyth and Clive Ross to the sin-bin, either side of half-time. They could not hold out as Doherty’s fourth successful penalty was followed by two tries in a productive four-minute spell for Bann. Centre Andrew Morrison was key to both scores, with his line-breaks and offloads playing in both Conor Field and Niall Armstrong.

Ballymena’s frustration grew after their failure to score from a prolonged period of possession and territory inside the hosts’ 22. A spilled ball led to Bann replacement Bentley carrying 50 metres downfield. Irvine and Alex Thompson took up the baton, taking Bann back close to the whitewash before replacement scrum half Aaron Kennedy burrowed over to register the bonus point.

Well-beaten but unbowed, Ballymena came hunting for a late consolation try and got it when flanker Smyth forced his way over for a five-pointer. McKinstry said afterwards: “We talked about maintaining good discipline and not giving them an easy way into the game. I think we only gave away two penalties in the first half. Against that, Ballymena will have been disappointed with their penalty count, as it gave Adam Doherty three first half chances which he put away off the tee.

“That was important in building up a decent gap by the interval. We spoke at half-time about getting more multi-phases, getting into double figures and trying to stretch them, and when we did that the tries starting coming. Andrew Morrison was very good, threatening every time he got the ball and his partnership with James (Hume) is working very well.”

BANBRIDGE: Adam Doherty; Conor Field, Andrew Morrison, James Hume, Adam Ervine; Jonny Little, Niall Armstrong; Corrie Barrett, Peter Cromie (capt), Stuart Cromie, Alex Thompson, Chris Allen, Stevie Irvine, Caleb Montgomery, Greg Jones.

Replacements: Ross Haughey, Andrew Jackson, Mike Bentley, Aaron Kennedy, Benjamin Carson.

BALLYMENA: Matthew Norris; Jonny McMullan, Darrell Montgomery, Glenn Baillie, Mark Thompson; Tim Small, Michael Stronge; Nacho Cladera Crespo, Jonny Spence, Chris Cundell, David Whann, JJ McKee, Connor Smyth, Marcus Rea (capt), Clive Ross.

Replacements: James Taggart, Josh Bill, Willie McKay, James Wheeler, Dean Reynolds.

Scorers: Malone: Tries: Ben McCaughey, Adam McBurney, David McMaster 2, Michael Shiels, Matthew Agnew; Cons: Callum Smith, Rory Campbell 2; Pen: Rory Campbell
Old Belvedere: Try: Ed Rossiter; Pen: Steve Crosbie

HT: Malone 29 Old Belvedere 3

Malone comprehensively outscored Old Belvedere by six tries to one as they returned to second place in the Division 1B table on the back of a 39-8 home win at Gibson Park.

Getting back on track after losing 32-3 at City of Armagh, the Cregagh Red Sox put together a superb first half performance which had them 29-3 clear of ‘Belvo at the interval. A penalty from player-backs coach and captain Steve Crosbie was all ‘Belvo could muster as they struggled to keep up with Malone’s dynamic play.

Debutant winger Ben McCaughey bagged the game’s opening try in the eighth minute, and after Crosbie responded from the tee, the Belvedere back-line had to cope without yellow-carded full-back Daniel Riordan for 10 minutes in the lead up to half-time.

Malone pressed home their numerical advantage as tries from David McMaster (2) and Michael Shiels added to a maul effort from Ulster hooker Adam McBurney. The exchanges were tighter in the third quarter as Rory Campbell’s 48th-minute penalty stood as the second half’s only score until 14 minutes from time.

Some cohesive play between ‘Belvo’s backs and forwards resulted in replacement hooker and former skipper Ed Rossiter reaching over the line for an unconverted score. Nonetheless, the Dublin 4 side, who have fallen down to seventh in the table, were unable to get into double figures as Malone made sure that they ended the game with their sixth and final try.

With four minutes left on the clock, home full-back Campbell, who finished with seven points from the tee, made the break which paved the way for 20-year-old Ulster Academy back rower Matthew Agnew to plunge over with a pick-and-go effort.

MALONE: Rory Campbell; David McMaster, Josh Pentland, Nathan Brown, Ben McCaughey; Callum Smith, Shane Kelly; Peter Cooper, Adam McBurney, Ross Kane, Jonathan Davis, Michael Shiels, Joe Dunleavy, Ross Todd (capt), Ryan Clarke.

Replacements: Dan Kerr, Ben Halliday, Matthew Agnew, Connor Spence, Gareth Millar.

OLD BELVEDERE: Daniel Riordan; Jack Keating, David Butler, Jamie McAleese, Peter Maher; Steve Crosbie (capt), Peter O’Beirne; James Bollard, John McKee, Declan Lavery, Jack Kelly, Connor Owende, Karl Miller, Tom de Jongh, Eoin Sweeney.

Replacements: Ed Rossiter, Roman Salanoa, Eoin O’Neill, Fergus Flood, Ben Carty, Adam Howard, Simon Killeen.

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE 27 CITY OF ARMAGH 11, Templeville Road
Scorers: St. Mary’s College: Tries: Mark Fogarty, Ronan Watters, Cormac Foley, Myles Carey; Cons: Conor Dean 2; Pen: Conor Dean
City of Armagh: Try: Andrew Smyth; Pens: Cormac Fox 2

HT: St. Mary’s College 5 City of Armagh 11

Three second half tries guided St. Mary’s College to a 27-11 bonus point triumph as City of Armagh’s first ever visit to Templeville Road ended in obvious disappointment at the loss of a promising 11-point lead.

This was an exciting encounter between two well-matched teams, but Mary’s proved the stronger in the long run with clever use of their rolling substitutions helping them to pocket maximum points. Hooker Andrew Smyth’s try on the half hour mark was Armagh’s final score as Willie Faloon’s charges were outplayed by Mary’s over the remainder of the match.

“We largely controlled that first half and should have had a clean sheet at the break,” admitted head coach Faloon. “St. Mary’s are an experienced outfit and our guys seemed to retreat into their shell in that second half. Losing by four tries to one was hard to take and we need to learn from the experience moving forward.”

Armagh were first to threaten in the mild, autumnal conditions with winger Andrew Willis just forced into touch, two metres out from the Mary’s try-line. Out-half Cormac Fox landed two penalties during the opening quarter of an hour, the second kick coming after Mary’s had suffered a yellow card for a high tackle.

The hosts also missed a couple of long-range penalty attempts before Armagh had Willis sin-binned for another high tackle. However, the visitors soon set up another mauling opportunity from a penalty and Smyth was able to touch down in the left corner. Those five points were cancelled out, though, when Mary’s winger Mark Fogarty showed the required pace, footwork and determination to cross via a overlap approaching half-time.

14-man Armagh were fortunate to avoid leaking a second try before the break, but that score arrived just five minutes after the restart. Mary’s kicked a penalty to touch, set up a maul and a costly missed tackle allowed scrum half Cormac Foley to snipe over. His half-back partner Conor Dean converted to put his side in front – 12-11.

Back from injury, Myles Carey was next on the scoresheet just a few minutes later. Dean’s inviting chip over the top was run onto by Mary’s captain Marcus O’Driscoll who slipped a pass away for his centre partner Carey to angle his run and spear through the cover to score. The converted try stood despite many feeling that O’Driscoll had thrown a forward pass.

The turnaround in fortunes was summed by Armagh’s failure to profit from an attacking lineout, which was spoiled by a crooked throw, and then a loose pass saw O’Driscoll and his team-mates thunder downfield to bring play deep into the visitors’ half.

Ireland Under-20 international Dean knocked over a penalty from in front of the posts, and with Mary’s tails up, their pack won successive scrum penalties before surging over the line for flanker Ronan Watters to ground the Dubliners’ bonus point score, six minutes from the end.

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE: Tim MacMahon; Craig Kennedy, Myles Carey, Marcus O’Driscoll (capt), Mark Fogarty; Conor Dean, Cormac Foley; Tom O’Reilly, Richard Halpin, Michael McCormack, Liam Corcoran, Liam Curran, David Aspil, Ronan Watters, Mark Fallon.

Replacements: Stephen O’Brien, Colm McMahon, Nick McCarthy, Paddy O’Driscoll, Hugo Conway.

CITY OF ARMAGH: Chris Cousens; Andrew Willis, Chris Colvin (capt), Evin Crummie, Tim McNiece; Cormac Fox, Harry Doyle; Daryl Morton, Andrew Smyth, Phillip Fletcher, Peter Starrett, Josh McKinley, Nigel Simpson, Ryan O’Neill, Robbie Whitten.

Replacements: Michael Hoey, Peter Lamb, James Hanna, Jonny Pollock, Ryan Purvis.

– Photos from Ken Redpath (City of Armagh RFC), David Maginnis Photography (Banbridge v Ballymena), Kevin Smith (Malone v Old Belvedere) & Hugh Wilkinson/Neil Biggerstaff (Ballynahinch RFC)